Lighting a Portrait: Indoor BMX Athlete
Why don't we start? We're gonna go, let's go beauty dish first, and,
Do you have a preference, right to left? Or left to right?
You have a better side, Cory, left or right (laughs)?
My right side's pretty good, I guess.
Right side? Okay. I actually think, given the lights here, let's just start right, and then if there's...
And then we've got his logo there.
Yeah, and part of that is I'm just seeing the light modeled already from the windows. It looks nice. You're kind of naturally defaulting to standing that way. So some folks might have noticed, I'll always put a piece of tape on the ground here, just so that there's always a reference point that you can go back to. So it's like you're trying to eliminate as many variables as you can, so that 15 minutes into the shoot, I've got the light dialed, and then Cory moves, and it's, you know, you're fumbling to get back into that position. So now, with that piece of tape, we're sort of, we're eliminating variables. We're creatin...
g constants, so that we're shaping the light and exposure around that tape mark. Okay, so now we were using high speed sync when were shooting action. We don't need that anymore. I mean, the beauty of these Profoto systems, the B4 pack and the B1 pack, is we can sync up to 12,800th of a second. Of course, you don't have a lot of power when you get to 12,800th, but it gives us the ability to stop action and we're shooting action-adventure sports. When we're shooting portraits, I sort of immediately default to 250th of a second. There's no compelling reason straight out of the gate to shoot any faster, or shoot any slower. I'm on a 24 to 70 millimeter lens. I'm dropping down ISO. I'm at 200 ISO, and I'm just at 5/6. It's kind of a, it's a good starting point. So let me see. Let me just see what our lights are doing. Okay, so we're tethered. Are we tethered?
We were tethered. Now we're tethered.
Okay, let me just... It's weird, our systems always work perfectly. I don't know. (men laugh) So, and again, I think it's really good to see some of these issues, because there's constantly problems. And I think when I'm building a schedule, if I called Cory to set this shoot up,
There we go. There we go. If I called Cory to set this shoot up... Oh, I wonder if it's just the size of our file.
It's taking a while.
We could switch to JPEG only.
Nah, it's unsyncing every time I plug it in.
Okay, we're having a sync issue. And I guess the point I was gonna make, if Red Bull gave me the assignment to go and shoot with Cory, and they say, hey, why don't you spend a half a day with him? Despite what Red Bull asks me to do, I'm gonna call Cory, and I'm gonna say, can we spend the whole day together? Because just, things happen. Stuff goes wrong.
Yeah, there's never, no such thing as a half day (laughs).
No, and it's never perfect. I mean, once in a while,
You're not getting the photos you're doing in an hour or two or hours, it's like, yeah, we'll probably need a few more, maybe half a day.
Yeah, and you know that. You've been around this enough. Cory knows that when someone says it's gonna be quick, it's never quick. And so, this is just a small technical issue. We're having a sync issue. Troubleshooting this right now with three guys that are helping could take a couple of minutes, but as soon as it's just me or it's just you, it's infinitely more difficult, and it's really stressful. I always feel like I've got Cory's time, he has, he's a busy guy. He has other stuff that he should be doing. And meanwhile, I've got him on hold. I'm trying to shoot pictures. So, sync issue's just an example of that. So, while we're looking at this, I think one of the things I'll do is just start looking at poses. Cory, let me just see if you're gonna relax, if we're gonna talk for 10 minutes, you know, what are you doing? What are you doing this week?
I'm always the guy that has a non-defensive tone, a what-do-I-do-with-my-hands kind of thing. So it depends. If you're actually trying to do a shoot, I would just do a drill to just start moving.
No, because I want it, maybe if you're willing to stand in there and sorta hold it, that would be great, because I kinda wanna see what he's doing with his hands.
No, I mean, usually, like I said, it's--
By the way, Mike is for hire as an audio sound recordist, if you're looking for a sound recordist.
Yeah, I'm the type of guy that never knows what to do with his hands, that person. So I usually would just do the typical, just posing, like that.
But, I would just move around, whatever you need.
So tell me what to do, and you guys...
And what Cory just said was really key. I love the idea, I'll always say, and often times I'll even pretend that I'm fumbling with the camera, when in reality, I'm sort of just waiting for him to get comfortable, but I'll sort of, I just settle in, get comfortable. Great. You're looking at me. Let me, I'm gonna change my focus point. So I'm still, by the way, it's worth pointing out, I'm in continuous focus, so that, if he moves, and I'm pressing the autofocus button, it's actually tracking with him. But if he's not moving, I just take my finger off of this AF on button. I'm shooting a portrait, so I'm in vertical mode, and I'm actually, I just switched back to the D5, because we were having an issue with syncing, so ignore everything I said about high resolution. The D5 is perfect for this photograph (laughs). But one advantage to shooting with the D is you can actually hold the camera vertically, which is kind of nice. So I have it set up so that I'm focusing with my finger, shooting in this vertical grip position, and I'm just centering, if you could see through my viewfinder right now, I'm putting my focus point in the upper-third, dead center, because I want him cleanly centered in this frame. And let's just see how we're looking exposure-wise. So, that beauty dish is very soft light. I'm loving the look of that soft light. I am feeling like I wanna isolate just that gray background, just the wall. So I think I'm gonna either move forward or switch. Let's actually go to an 85 millimeter prime. The 85 14 is a beautiful lens. I mean, it's just, even if you're not shooting wide open, it gives you a little more compression. We can clean up the background. And I think I'm a little short right now, at 70 millimeters. And again, 85 prime isn't key. This could be my 70 to 200. I could do this on a zoom.
Yeah, same spot is great. Okay, okay, now I'm still gonna move forward. Okay, so now we're on the 85. Are we syncing?
Yeah, it's going to, eventually. Try that one more time.
Okay, let's try one more. Okay, so there we go. I'm kind of liking this composition. Now, we're working with a fairly small backdrop. I mean, that yellow lip is just above his head, and the floor is just below his waist. But I'm liking the light, kind of liking the look of that frame, now let's start working on actually coaching the body position. So, cool. All right, let's have, yep, same,
Yep, same spot, and...okay. And my position ends up looking kinda silly, so that I look like a track athlete, but really, it's just trying to get into position to shoot good. And sometimes, I don't mind kind of making fun of myself, but when I can get him laughing, even if it's at my expense, sometimes that's a fairly positive attribute, good attribute to bring.
That's usually kinda the way it goes for me with a lot of you (laughs).
Cool, okay. And I'm kind of capturing a few of those fun, okay, I'm gonna say go ahead and relax your hands. Yep, relax your hands, you're right on. And I'm gonna have you looking more over at Jeff, actually. So yeah, you're not even looking at me, yeah. Just relax, you're looking right at Jeff's face. Cool, perfect. (Jeff laughs) Cool, and I think this is serious. Yeah, there we go.
That was, now that's another thing that you can let me know, what position of hat...
Yep, we got it. And just as you tilted your head up, I lost that Red Bull logo, and of course, our theoretical scenario is Red Bull hired me to be here, and so if I deliver pictures where the one piece of branding is covered, because his bill is too high, that's a fail.
Well there's also a good point with lighting as well. As soon as you stepped up, I noticed you wearing a hat. You tilted it up slightly, 'cause you know we need to see inside your eyes. So this light I'll bring down a bit, so I make sure that I'm underneath the hat, and getting a little bit of catch light in his eye, which you can see on the monitor. So, we always wanna get some life in there, on the actual...
And Jeff made the point earlier, the idea that we're tethered is great for Jeff, because he can actually see. He doesn't care about the moment, necessarily. He's looking at the light, and saying, is the light, how are we shaping the light? Is it working? Is it not working? And so as we're shooting this frame, he just, I'm not even focused right now on the light. I'm just trying to figure out what's this moment gonna look like? And so tag-teaming that, where Jeff's worrying about light, I'm obviously concerned about light, but I'm also trying to figure out what, roughly, is gonna happen in this photograph. That's that team effort that's pretty key.
Yeah, and a lot of times, if I'm seeing something that I would like better, if I wanna change the shape of the light, or something like that, I'll just tap Cory and say, hey, what do you think about this? Does this make sense to you?
And usually, the way I'll do that is Jeff will lean in and whisper something to me, I'll shoot a few more frames, and then I'll pretend like it's my idea, (men laugh) and say, hey, I'm thinking that if we (laughs). Okay.
Yeah, teamwork, that's it. No, I, okay. So maybe you're just really relaxed. All right, yep, I can see the Red Bull logo, good. Maybe even hands in your pockets. You ever put, you ever a pocket guy? I think thumbs out, like you're just kinda like,
Chilling? Yeah, yeah, that's good Yeah, more chilling, exactly. Yep, as relaxed as you can get. There we go, good. Okay, good. And bring your eyes to me, but don't turn your head. There we go. Yep, there we go. Bring your head down a little bit, great. Great. So all of a sudden, I like that turn of the head. It's starting to work better for me. We're getting enough light on his face. His eyes are coming at me. I can see the Red Bull hat. And you know, part of what's happening here is, Cory's obviously an athlete. I kinda like that you naturally pulled your sleeves up, because you can see this is not a dude that sits at a computer all day long. He has, he's holding a bike. He's an athlete. He's fit. And I think that context really helps. And so I like the sleeves up. I like the moment. So I think we have a nice lighting setup right now. Jeff, anything you see that you wanna change light-wise? And I'm liking the way this gray background, this literally could be one of these fabrics that a portrait photographer buys.
It does look like it.
Like a, what is it? What do they do, velvet?
Yeah, like a muslin. Yeah, yeah, it's like a canvas with paint all over it. And what's cool is there's some context. Those are skate or bike marks, wheel marks on the background, which is nice.
Yeah, and that reads into his sport and what his life is about, so it's totally telling a picture without having the bike. As far as with the single-light setup, I actually, I really like this. We could pull the sock off the front, and get a little more harsh but, I mean, if you need it.
I kinda like that soft look.
I liked it, yeah.
And I'll say, the one thing, the next thing that I would probably do is actually try to add some edge, like separate 'em from the background. And why don't we, just for the heck of it, because this is pretty simple. We got the shot. Let's add some edge. Let's figure out that light. And then, Alex, if you're willing to, I'd love to have you slide in first, and actually, after we get the light dialed in, I think I'd love to have you coach him through a few moments here. So, Cory, I might have you jump back on that line, and so,
Now I wanna ask a quick question, because you've been putting a lot of edge on stuff. Coming from a studio background, where we kinda separate the background by lighting it separately, is that something that you would consider in a situation like this? Maybe, maybe with more time. I'm far more interested in my subject right now than the background. You know this background, this is less about the background and more about him. And so putting the edge on Cory is gonna draw our attention to Cory. Lighting the background takes our attention away from Cory and focuses, distracts us. So, if we had a lot of time, if you have to prioritize, my rationale is, first let's light Cory, then let's add edge, then let's maybe start adding light to the background. So, okay, yeah.
So interestingly enough on this end, I'm actually lighting it. So I'm putting another, I'm adding another head. I'm using a head that's, this is 500 watt seconds. We're pretty low power for our key light, so I'm gonna use, so I know I don't need tons and tons of power, so I'm gonna use something that I can save the bigger power heads for other shots, or other areas. I'm putting some cinefoil up here, just to flag the lens so we don't get some desaturation, and gets lens flare into the camera. And then also, on the modifier, we're using a 7" reflector with a, I think it's a 20 degree grid, and I'm zooming the light in to focus the light a little bit, but seeing what, we'll take a shot. I think I might actually pull the grid, so I can get more of the edge light coming down his body, and actually maybe,
Let's do, if you wanna do one with grid,
pop it off, shoot it without, and we can compare them.
Yeah, so right now, it's fairly zoomed in. I'll zoom out a bit with the grid still. And again, just to kind of shield that from camera, fairly low power.
And I think, same pose. Yep, same pose. You're kind of, head looking over here, but then you're gonna bring your eyes back at me. Head down a little bit, chin down. There we go, good. Okay, so now we're gonna see with grid.
Which is also, it's fairly low power, so we need to see...
Let me try one more, I don't know why I've opened.
Hang on, let me go up a bit.
Maybe, I'm not seeing anything. Oh, maybe we're getting a little bit. Jeff, I think I'm seeing it just ever so slightly. Yep, we got a little bit. I think you could give us three more stops.
Yep, we're almost all the way down there, so...
Okay, all right.
That's three stops.
There we go. Now we're getting edge.
So then, I'll come over and take a look at the shape, which I like, where this was kinda going dark before, below his ear, we're getting some of this highlight, which is really, really nice, adding a little bit more drama. Same thing here, it's nice to see the spacing here, so he doesn't look like he's a larger guy. You can see that. That line is really, really nice. And so, if we wanted to, we could pull the grid, but this is kinda tight.
Just for the heck of it, let's pull the grid, just so people can see the difference. And then I think as soon as we see the difference, you're up. Cool. And are you, what lens are you?
I got a 24/7.
Cool. Maybe, actually it's up to you. I'm at 85, so you're either gonna have to get really close with the 70, or maybe switch to an 85, or a 70 to 200, but your call. Okay Cory, so same thing. This just a test. Yep, there we go. Okay, and I noticed I cropped out some of the Red Bull hat. So there it is, no grid, with grid.
It's just a little bit softer, not too much.
I think I like with grid, because we're just getting a lot of hot spot on his hat without grid. So let's go, I think with grid looks better.
Grid back in.
Cool. All right, so you're not gonna be tethered, but we'll, you can shoot. I'll look over your shoulder. And so you're gonna own the situation. You can kind of coach Cory in terms of what you want. Settings-wise... Here's the pocket wizard. Settings-wise, we're gonna go 250th of a second, 5/6 at 200 ISO. And we're daylight exposure. And you know, while Alex is setting up to do this, one of the things I'm thinking about already is what happens next? Because it's always what's gonna happen next on the shoot, and trying to plan ahead for where we're going. Oh right, we're not tethered, okay.
So that looks pretty reasonable.
Yep, yep, that looks good. That looks good.